Archive for Thursday, May 17, 2012

Town Talk: Development group files plans for 7-story building on Black Hills Energy site at 9th and N.H.; an update on Borders; roadwork set to begin Monday on 6th Street west of Iowa

May 17, 2012

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News and notes from around town:

• The intersection of Ninth and New Hampshire streets has become like a craps game. You never know what number is going to end up being lucky.

Seven — as in the seven-story building at the southwest corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets — was lucky for developers Doug Compton and Mike Treanor. The 901 Building, as it has become known, registered nary a peep of public opposition.

But six and even five have not been nearly as lucky for the development duo. Neighbors, and the city’s Historic Resources Commission, have registered mighty opposition to proposals to build first a six-story and then a five-story building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. That fight is still under way.

Now, the development group has filed plans for what it hopes will be its third building at the intersection. As we’ve previously reported, the group has struck a deal to purchase the Black Hills Energy building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets, and hopes to build a multistory apartment building on the site.

Until recently, though, the development group hadn’t submitted official plans for the building. That has changed, and developers are back to betting on seven.

Plans filed at City Hall propose a seven-story building on the site where the Black Hills offices sit today. The building would have 90 to 120 apartment units on its upper floors, while the ground-level floor would have room for a 6,000 square-foot bank, a 6,000 square-foot clubhouse to serve the tenants of the apartments, and 5,000 square feet of office or retail space.

The bank, which would have two drive-thru lanes near the alley, is expected to be Lawrence Bank. It has a branch on the site today, and Compton is a director for the bank. No word on the office or retail users. Black Hills won’t remain. It is purchasing Compton’s office building on North Iowa Street. Adecco, Shirley Martin Smith’s employment agency, also is in the building. I haven’t heard what its plans are.

The site currently has its own surface parking lot, but it will be covered by the building. Instead, the project proposes building two levels of below-ground parking.

When I looked at the file at City Hall, it didn’t yet include actual renderings of the project. But those were expected to be submitted soon, so I’ll pass them along when I get them. Like the other two multistory buildings, the design will have to reviewed by the city’s Historic Resources Commission.

If approved, the project will be the largest apartment development in downtown’s history, I believe. The 901 Building has 55 apartments. This could perhaps more than double that total. Before you start harping about how Lawrence has so many apartments, my understanding is that all but one of the apartments at 901 have been leased. What people who harp about apartments often forget is that it is not the new apartments that often sit empty. It is the older apartments that struggle more with vacancies.

Apartment dwellers in Lawrence seem to have expectations that the newer developments are meeting better than the older ones. Mark my words, (excuse me, I just got a shiver. Usually those words come from my wife’s mouth, and that’s not good news.) Anyway, mark my words, one of the bigger issues over the next decade for Lawrence will be how and when older apartment complexes in the city redevelop.

As for the prospects of approval for this project, I understand those about as well as I understand craps. I’m confident city commissioners will be enthused about the idea of more living units in downtown. This proposal also is farther away from a residential neighborhood than the proposed building on the southeast corner. That should help its prospects. I wouldn’t bet on East Lawrence coming out and supporting the project, though. East Lawrence leaders will have a decision to make on how much they want to oppose. They’re spending a lot of political capital now on opposing the proposal on the southeast corner. If they fight as hard on this one, they’ll run the risk — fairly or not — of looking like they’re opposed to everything. I mention that because I’ve heard it come up with some elected officials.

So, we’ll just have to settle in and watch and wait. In the meantime, I’ll read up on craps. I once bought a book on how to win at the game from a Cadillac-driving author who was signing books at Lawrence’s Borders. I never could understand why if he had a winning system at craps he was spending his time signing books in a nearly empty Borders. I figured it out once I went to the casino.

• Speaking of Borders, I have a bit of an update. (Wow, what are the odds that I would have told a Borders story right before I was to give you an update? Don’t ask the guy in the Cadillac; he sucks at odds.) Anyway, the update is the large store at the corner of Seventh and New Hampshire is still empty. I chatted recently with the real estate broker who is marketing the property — Eric Gonsher of R.H. Johnson Co. — and he said there is still interest but no imminent deal.

He told me there have been both national and local retailers take a look at it, but retailers are being very selective right now. He said the ownership group of the building — based out of Michigan, I believe — is open to converting the retail building into a large-scale office space.

That might be an even bigger benefit to downtown than a new retailer, depending on how many jobs it would bring to the area.

But I would still keep an eye on the city of Lawrence becoming at least a temporary tenant of the facility. I’m expecting a report soon that details the benefits of moving the library from its space at Seventh and Vermont streets while it undergoes a $19 million renovation and expansion.

Gonsher confirmed to me the city recently has made some preliminary inquiries about the space. Certainly no deal is imminent, but Gonsher said the ownership group would be interested in renting to the city on a temporary basis, if a longer-term tenant doesn’t surface first.

• Gonsher also is the agent who has filed plans for a new commercial building that would be located in the northwest corner of the Walmart parking lot near 33rd and Iowa streets.

Gonsher said he can’t reveal tenants for that building yet. Based on the plans, though, it sure appears that a food use of some sort is likely. The plans show an outdoor patio area, but no drive-thru. So, we’re probably not talking about a fast-food burger type of joint. Many of the coffee shops also are seeking drive-thrus these days, so maybe that is not it either.

The total building only is 5,600 square feet, and the plans show it being divided into at least two spaces. So, not an overly large sit-down restaurant. It beats me. Look around the next time you are in a Walmart in another community. What businesses often show up in their parking lots? It will be a good guessing game for the summer, and now I’ve given you that excuse you’ve been looking for to visit Walmarts in other cities.

• That promises to be fun, perhaps about as much fun as driving on West Sixth Street will become next week.

City officials are warning motorists to expect delays on the portion of Sixth Street between Iowa and Monterey Way beginning on Monday. As previously reported, the city has funded a project to repave the section of street and add some turn lanes at Sixth and Kasold.

The project is slated to begin Monday and be completed by Aug. 10. City officials said contractors will keep at least one lane of traffic in each direction open through the duration of the project.

Comments

Steve Jacob 3 years, 2 months ago

Apartments and offices, that will even further kick out retail downtown for more food/bar options. Do people realize this?

optimist 3 years, 2 months ago

They aren't displacing the retail they are in addition to it. These apartments will house people that I expect would shop downtown frequently and bolster it. I think this is a good thing for downtown as long as these apartments remain quality living spaces and aren't allowed to blight.

flyin_squirrel 3 years, 2 months ago

So wait, when the North Lawrence Riverfront development tried to get rezoned, the Downtown complained about more retail. Now you are complaining about more offices and apartments.... You must live on Rhode Island St next to downtown...

kuhusker 3 years, 2 months ago

"If they fight as hard on this one, they’ll run the risk — fairly or not — of looking like they’re opposed to everything."

That's because they are. It's called NIMBYism.

Building these buildings downtown is win-win: it is infill development, which is a lot better then sprawl. It encourages less reliance on automobiles, increases density, and improves downtown. It is, in fact, very "green."

kuhusker 3 years, 2 months ago

"If they fight as hard on this one, they’ll run the risk — fairly or not — of looking like they’re opposed to everything."

That's because they are. It's called NIMBYism.

Building these buildings downtown is win-win: it is infill development, which is a lot better then sprawl. It encourages less reliance on automobiles, increases density, and improves downtown. It is, in fact, very "green."

kuhusker 3 years, 2 months ago

Sorry for the double-post. I didn't do that on purpose, just hit the back button after posting to get back to the original article.

tanaumaga 3 years, 2 months ago

I believe that would be a triple post.

irvan moore 3 years, 2 months ago

what a win win situation, we won't need the task force since doug is going to attract all the retired rich people to town for us with new apartments. thank you doug for saving us taxpayers money, heaven knows the city and county commissioners won't

formerfarmer 3 years, 2 months ago

"Neighbors, and the city’s Historic Resources Commission, have registered mighty opposition to proposals to build first a six-story and then a five-story building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. That fight is still under way. "

If this group had been around in 1850, we would all still be in soddies, dugouts and tee-pees.

Eddie Muñoz 3 years, 2 months ago

I suppose my opposition to this one is that I'm opposed to building up in our downtown, up as in tall. But I don't like change in general.

pizzapete 3 years, 2 months ago

Lawrence is in need of more cheap apartment buildings, the taller the better. Lets ruin downtown's charm with huge buildings that don't conform in height, style, or design with any other structures in the area. And while we're at it lets allow Doug to park his stretch Hummer in a compact car space.

MarcoPogo 3 years, 2 months ago

What downtown needs is more Juggalos. They should build them bigger and stronger!

bornherelongago 3 years, 2 months ago

Compton could choose to invest his millions elsewhere. We are lucky he chooses to invest in Lawrence. Having been born here, I've seen alot of change. I don't really care to go back to the sleepy little Lawrence of the 50's and 60's where you couldn't find a decent place to eat and downtown living meant you were a bum. If you don't like change, you are out of luck, because everything changes. I think Lawrence has changed for the better.

asixbury 3 years, 2 months ago

+1. Change usually equals progress. You cannot expect Lawrence to continue growing without building up. That is better than urban sprawl!

bornherelongago 3 years, 1 month ago

You have no clue what you are talking about. Just stop while you are way behind. Compton is one of the best things that's ever happened to Lawrence. When he's gone, his name will be uttered in the same sentence as Bob Billings for his contribution to the city.

guppypunkhead 3 years, 2 months ago

I am still hoping that of these many buildings being built, leased, etc downtown one of them will go to a drugstore / cornerstore type place. It would be very nice to have a place that was walkable to buy quick groceries and the like.

flyin_squirrel 3 years, 2 months ago

Cannot add a grocery store until you add more people to downtown.

gccs14r 3 years, 2 months ago

Because it's blight. No one should be granted a new building permit if he owns or controls a blighted property in the city. That would give the blighter incentive to either clean up or sell the property, rather than let it sit.

Brent Atwater 3 years, 2 months ago

Been empty a while...and if Compton wants to "give back" to the community any new downtown developments should be tied into fixing the Masonic Temple. Whether it's then "gifted" back to the Masons or as a place for the Community to meet that's fine with me. Vacant too long and wondering how it's not on KS Historic Register...never been inside but the outside used to make me look up and go wow.

Boston_Corbett 3 years, 2 months ago

As long as there no request for public incentives, I say go for it.

But if the developers want to divert taxes (i.e., use a TIF to finance the project) needed to support our police, fire, school, libraries and parks, and instead divert those monies to their private pockets, I say heck no.

irvan moore 3 years, 2 months ago

i wish doug would go into the repaving business so some of these street projects could get done in a timely way

Carol Bowen 3 years, 2 months ago

Whoever plans infill development should follow existing development code for infill. The city is not consistent with its variances and incentives.

Development is a good thing, but when we form our views, we should not discount affected neighborhoods. Encroachment would create a less desirable residential setting. That's not good for the neighborhoods or the city.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 2 months ago

"What people who harp about apartments often forget is that it is not the new apartments that often sit empty. It is the older apartments that struggle more with vacancies. "

Brought on by overloading the markets. Empty most anything is a drag on taxpayers. Empty spaces do not generate revenue. But they do demand services from taxpayers such as maintenance of infrastructure.

Do these developers and building owners keep the taxes paid on all of their properties? How can taxpayers find out?

East Lawrence has history of supporting mixed use development in their neighborhood.

JackMcKee 3 years, 2 months ago

I'm all for it, if he can build it without TIF.

konzahawk 3 years, 2 months ago

Why is Lawrence so opposed to having a nice skyline? Right now the downtown skyline consists of a run down grain elevator and a microwave tower. A few taller buildings would help disguise those eyesores.

flyin_squirrel 3 years, 2 months ago

Why cant Lawrence residents understand how a tif works? It is a net gain on the city's tax revenue.

Ockhams_Razor 3 years, 2 months ago

Some Lawrence residents indeed understand very very well how a TIF works.

If your test of eventual "net gain" is your primary reason for support, all households and businesses should be granted TIF deferral for all improvements to new or existing property. Not a taxpayer subsidy for just a developer or two.

TIF improvements, since they are a diversion of tax payments, should be restricted to public aspects of a project, not private ones, like a non-public garage.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 2 months ago

7 stories was too big for the 901 NH building, but because it's on the side of the street adjacent to Mass. St., most of the EL neighborhood didn't object. 7 stories is definitely too big for the NE corner. 5 stories is really the max that should be built anywhere on that side of NH St. However, if the plans for the SE corner are scaled back from the current plan, I could see the neighborhood going along with 6 stories on the NE corner.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 2 months ago

It's pretty simple, really-- what's nearby, and how much will those people living there be impacted by the structure, and the rather dramatic increase in noise, light pollution, traffic and reduction in privacy that it brings about.

"Is there an infill plan?"

No, but now that it seems all the rage to remake the not only the downtown, but also the surrounding neighborhoods, such a plan is necessary, and really should be done before any more of these buildings go up.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 2 months ago

"East Lawrence leaders will have a decision to make on how much they want to oppose. They’re spending a lot of political capital now on opposing the proposal on the southeast corner. If they fight as hard on this one, they’ll run the risk — fairly or not — of looking like they’re opposed to everything. I mention that because I’ve heard it come up with some elected officials. "

Total nonsense. East Lawrence is quite friendly to business and has been for sometime. It's just that this group of developers likes confrontation. And they don't seem to have much imagination in construction design. Can we say cookie cutter?

John Hamm 3 years, 2 months ago

Those RVers you so obviously dislike bring money into this town. Why do you think WalMart permits them to park on their lots? Because they spend money at WalMart! You have a problem with two downtown don't slam all of us!

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